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The Obama “Hope” Poster is an iconic image of Barack Obama created by graphic designer and street artist Shepard Fairey during the 2008 United States presidential election. Made with a stylized stencil of an Associated Press photograph of the then U.S. Senator Barack Obama, the posters were created independently of the official campaign. After the image was shared online, parodies of the poster depicting other notable figures and characters began appearing as well, mimicking the red, beige and blue color scheme of the original version.
Shepard Fairey began creating street art as early as in 1989 with a viral campaign known as Andre the Giant Has a Posse, which evolved into the OBEY sticker campaign in the following year and has since appeared in numerous locations all over the world. In October 2007, publicist Yosi Sergant suggested to Fairey that he make a piece of art in support of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Fairey then used a photograph (shown below, right) from April 2006, taken by Associated Press freelance photographer Mannie Garcia as the basis for his stenciled poster. The first image he created (shown below, right) had the word “Progress” centered underneath the portrait, with a small OBEY symbol placed inside of Obama’s campaign logo.
In January 2008, Fairey put a series of 350 screenprinted Progress posters up for sale on his website and its proceeds to be donated to the Obama campaign fund. They were priced at $45 a piece and sold out within fifteen minutes. However, many of the first editions were resold on eBay for $3000-$10,000 each. Following the initial run, he launched a second series of 3000 posters with the word “Hope” and an unedited version of the Obama logo at the campaign’s request. Both versions, along with an additional poster encouraging people to vote, were put up on buildings in Los Angeles before California’s primaries.
By April, parodies of the poster began appearing online, featuring a wide range of subjects including the Pope, Hilary Clinton and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter. A similar photo generator ObamiconMe was launched in January 2009 by Paste Magazine, a year after the poster’s original release. After being shared on sites including Metafilter, Buzzfeed and Metafilter, more than 70,000 images were uploaded to the site in its first two weeks.
Copyright Violation Claims
On January 7th, 2009, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery announced it had acquired Fairey’s hand-made version of the image with the word “hope” on it, intending to put it on display before Obama was sworn into office. Following this announcement, many bloggers began looking into the source of the original photograph the stencil was based on. Originally, the poster was thought to be modeled after a picture taken by Reuters photographer Jim Young. However, Philadelphia Inquirer blogger Tom Gralish found the original photograph, taken by Associated Press freelancer Mannie Garcia five months prior, on January 21st, 2009.
After AP realized the photo was theirs, they began seeking credit and compensation for its use. As a preemptive strike, Fairey filed a lawsuit on February 9th, 2009, asking for a federal judge to declare his work protected as fair use. He also published a response to AP’s actions on his blog. When the original photographer was asked for comment, Garcia said while he was proud of the art Fairey created, he does not “condone people taking things, just because they can, off the Internet.”
Destruction of Evidence
On October 16th, 2009, the Associated Press released a statement claiming Shepard Fairey destroyed and fabricated documents relating to the fair use case. Later that day, Fairey spoke with TechCrunch, where he admitted that he submitted false images and deleted others as proof of the photo he actually used as a reference to create the Obama poster. After this admission, his suit with the Associated Press was privately settled in January 2011, but Fairey plead guilty to a count of criminal contempt in February 2012. With his guilty plea, Fairey was facing up to six months in jail and scheduled to be sentenced on July 16th, 2012. However, there was no news coverage on the sentencing results.
Laughing Squid – “POPE” a Parody of the Popular “HOPE” Obama Poster
Philly Inquirer –
fn27, New York Times – Shepard Fairey and The A.P. Settle Legal Dispute
New York Times – Shepard Fairey Pleads Guilty Over Obama ‘Hope’ Image
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